Unlike a traditional trademark – which signifies the source or origin of goods or services – a certification mark is a type of trademark that informs consumers that particular goods or services, or their providers, have met certain standards. These standards usually refer to the material, quality, method of production, or other characteristic of the goods or services. Certifying organizations own the certification mark and also control who can use the mark by permitting its use only if goods, services, or their providers meet the organization’s standards.
In the United States, certification marks must comply with number of strict rules to preserve their integrity. These rules include:
- that a certification mark’s owner exercise control over the use of its certification marks, such as by executing written license agreements with certified parties;
- that the owner not provide any goods or services bearing the mark;
- that the owner not permit use of the mark for any purpose other than to certify; and
- that the owner not refuse to certify the goods or services of any person who meets the owner’s standards.
Failure to comply with these rules may result in the loss of the certifying organization’s rights to the mark.
The requirements for registering under the German Trademark Law are analogous, and, as in the United States, the German Trademark Law requires the certification mark’s owner to also provide information on the standards the certifications represent, such as any conditions of use, under what testing or monitoring measures any certifications are made, and what a third-party must certify for permission to use the mark.
Compliance with the certification marks provisions of the German Trademark Law will enable neutral certification companies to obtain quality seals or testing marks in Germany. This will allow German marks to expand more easily internationally, as well as allow internationally protected brands to expand more easily into Germany.
Authored by Susanne Karow and Julia Matheson
For more information see our earlier post “Europe: Everything you always wanted to know about certification marks“